Type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic both in the United States and around the world. Almost 10 percent of American adults have type 2 diabetes and 25 percent have prediabetes; These numbers only continue to rise, with a surprising third of U.S. adults projected to have diabetes by 2050.
Conventional medicine falls short
The conventional medicine approach to treating type 2 diabetes, long focused on a “wait and see” mentality and drug therapy, is not working to stem the tide of these epidemic numbers, nor are preventive strategies emphasized.
Keep reading this article to learn why functional medicine, which has a science-based approach to preventing and treating disease that focuses on diet and lifestyle changes, is the most effective first-line strategy for managing type 2 diabetes.
Understand what type 2 diabetes is
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way the body metabolizes sugar. It is characterized by a progressive loss of sensitivity to insulin, the pancreatic hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, the body produces more insulin to try to overcome the reduced sensitivity to insulin; however, in the long run, the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to maintain blood sugar levels, resulting in high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia induces oxidative stress, which, in turn, contributes to many of the complications of type 2 diabetes, such as kidney, nerve, retinal, and vascular damage.
What causes the appearance of type 2 diabetes?
The question of why a person develops type 2 diabetes has been debated and explored for decades. For many years, dietary fats were blamed for causing the disease. Later, obesity was thought to be the culprit (obesity and diabetes share many of the same underlying causes, they are often collectively referred to as: " diabesity ").
However, it is now clear that type 2 diabetes can occur in the absence of obesity. Today, we understand that we cannot blame a single factor for the onset of diabetes. Rather, the disease process is driven by a complex web of diet and lifestyle factors, oxidative stress, and genetics.
The Western diet, full of refined carbohydrates, fructose, and industrial seed oils, is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Wherever the western diet goes, type 2 diabetes follows.
For example, hunter-gatherer populations such as Aboriginal Australians are often healthy by eating their traditional diets. However, when they are displaced and moved to urban settings, they replace their traditional diets with a Western one and develop diabetes at record speed.
However, diet is not the only contributing factor: a sedentary lifestyle, inadequate sleep, chronic stress, intestinal dysfunction, and environmental toxins also play a role. They cause oxidative stress, damage pancreatic beta cells (responsible for producing insulin), and induce cellular resistance to insulin, setting the stage for severe metabolic dysfunction.
Type 2 diabetes and blood sugar levels
To successfully manage diabetes, it helps to have a basic understanding of the science behind blood sugar. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down in your gut into monosaccharides, or simple sugars, the most basic unit of carbohydrates.
One of these monosaccharides, glucose, is subsequently absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream, where insulin transports it to the cells. In type 2 diabetes, several factors have caused cells to become less sensitive to insulin, causing excess glucose to build up in the bloodstream (the state of hyperglycemia or high blood sugar). Blood sugar measurements are essential to assess the progression and severity of type 2 diabetes.
Why doesn't a conventional medicine approach work all that well?
The conventional medicine approach to type 2 diabetes is fraught with problems.
Under the conventional system, professionals wait until people have full-blown type 2 diabetes before starting treatment. Little is done to alter the course of the disease in the prediabetic stage when the body responds best to changes in diet and lifestyle.
Medications used to treat type 2 diabetes have serious side effects. Sulfonylureas, biguanides, thiazolidinediones, and meglitinides are just a few of the classes of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes. They are associated with liver and kidney dysfunction, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, rashes, weight gain, and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Conventional Diabetic Diet Guidelines Are Outdated
The American Diabetes Association dietary guidelines for type 2 diabetes have long promoted a relatively high carbohydrate intake while demonizing dietary fats. However, abundant research indicates that not only does this dietary approach not work for type 2 diabetes, it may actually make the condition worse.
Functional medicine: an effective way to prevent, treat and control type 2 diabetes
Unlike conventional medicine, the Functional Medicine approach emphasizes prevention and treatment through changes in diet and lifestyle.
1. Adjust the quantity and quality of carbohydrates
It is well established that a diet high in starch and low in fiber increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Despite this fact, mainstream health experts continue to recommend a high-carbohydrate diet for type 2 diabetics to achieve best results.
The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics get 45 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates, while the American Dietetic Association recently rescinded its endorsement of high carbohydrate intake for diabetics and remains reluctant to recommend low carbohydrate intake. in carbohydrates.
Despite such an effort, a growing body of scientific research indicates that low-carbohydrate diets are superior to high-carbohydrate diets for treating type 2 diabetes.
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 randomized controlled trials found that reducing dietary carbohydrates leads to significant improvements in HbA1c, triglycerides, and cholesterol, while reducing patients' diabetes drug requirements.Importantly, the definition of a ' low carbohydrate diet ' varied between the studies included in the review; If the definition had been stricter, a greater beneficial effect of this type of diet could have been observed.
How much do you need to reduce your carbohydrate intake to control type 2 diabetes?
While the answer to this question varies from person to person, people with blood sugar regulation issues generally benefit from limiting carbohydrate intake to 10 to 15 percent of total calories.
In addition to adjusting the amount of carbohydrates, the quality of carbohydrates that are consumed must also be changed. Instead of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, it is recommended to eat moderate amounts of starchy tubers (sweet potatoes, cassava, beets, and kohlrabi), apples, whole fruits, and moderate amounts of whole dairy, if tolerated and not available. lactose intolerance.
Determine the types of carbohydrates that are functional for you
While methods for measuring blood sugar in the clinical setting have their place, they do not reflect how the body responds to glucose in food. To better understand which carbohydrate-containing foods our body tolerates best and which cause unhealthy blood sugar swings, you will need to test your blood sugar at home. And for this, there are many new products that help measure blood sugar without extra punctures, such as the Freestile Libre system, a patch that constantly measures glucose.
Check your blood sugar level first thing in the morning after fasting for at least 12 hours. Drink some water right after you get up, but don't eat or exercise before the test. The measurement you get at this point is your fasting blood sugar level.
1. Check your blood sugar again just before lunch.
2. Eat a typical lunch and test your blood sugar one hour, two hours, and three hours later. Don't eat anything during this three-hour period after lunch.
3. Record your blood sugar results, along with what you ate for lunch.
4. Repeat this practice the next day. The blood sugar measurements you collect will tell you how the foods you usually eat affect your blood sugar levels.
5. On day three, go through steps 1 and 2. However, in step 3, instead of eating your typical lunch, consume 60 to 70 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates, such as an eight-ounce boiled potato or a cup of cooked white rice. Fast-acting carbohydrates break down quickly and release glucose into our system. Just for the purposes of this test, avoid eating fat or protein with the potato or rice because it will delay glucose absorption.
6. After this carb-rich meal on day three, record your blood sugar results.
The goal here is to ensure that your blood glucose does not steadily rise more than 140 ng / ml one hour after a meal, but instead drops steadily to 120 ng / ml two hours after eating and returns to baseline three hours after lunch.
When it comes to fasting blood sugar, measurements at 80 ng / ml are the best. However, if you see some readings in the 90 ng / ml range, you shouldn't be alarmed. If all other biomarkers (fasting insulin, fasting leptin, fructosamine, and triglycerides) are normal, this is not a cause for concern.
Age must also be taken into account when evaluating blood sugar; a fasting blood glucose reading of 90 ng / mL is relatively normal for a 70-year-old, but can be more concerning when repeatedly observed in someone in their twenties, and even above 100 ng /mL.
2. The ketogenic diet
An increasing number of people are experimenting with the ketogenic diet for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, with some very positive results. The ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat diet that makes the body depend on fatty acids and ketones for fuel, rather than glucose.
The studies indicate that a ketogenic diet has significant benefits for type 2 diabetics found that a ketogenic diet improves HbA1c, promotes weight loss, reverses kidney damage and improves blood lipids and cardiovascular health in type 2 diabetics.
This diet has proven to be so effective that an entire company, Virta Health, has made a ketogenic diet the cornerstone of its new approach to treating type 2 diabetes.
3. Eliminate gluten from your diet
In recent years, multiple studies have examined the effects of gluten on type 2 diabetes. We know that celiac disease is more common in people with poorly controlled diabetes than in the general population; This finding suggests that gluten may contribute to the development and progression of diabetes. Furthermore, animal models with type 2 diabetes indicate that a gluten-free diet increases the functional capacity of beta cells, the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin, and improves glucose tolerance.
How does gluten contribute to diabetes?
The answer lies in the damaging effects of gluten on the intestinal barrier. Gluten increases intestinal permeability, causing leaky gut and systemic inflammation; These two factors have been found to precede type 2 diabetes. Removing gluten from the diet restores the integrity of the intestinal barrier and reduces inflammation, thereby improving insulin resistance and potentially reversing the course of diabetes.
4. Eat more protein
Protein is a powerful tool for managing type 2 diabetes. Increased protein intake improves blood sugar control and satiety (the feeling of fullness) and preserves lean body mass in diabetics. According to research, a protein intake of 20 to 30 percent of total calories is best for optimizing type 2 diabetes control.
There are still some concerns that a high protein intake can cause diabetic kidney disease. However, this myth has been refuted several times; a high protein intake does not compromise kidney function in people without pre-existing kidney disease.
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